Contrary to what people think about GRIEF, it’s the little things. It’s not one giant reminder that propels us into a cascade of tears.
It’s the ornament forgotten in the box. The musical globe unpacked from the Christmas tub. The long forgotten shirt hidden in the back of a closet. It’s the inability to text with a question or sarcastic comment. It’s the memory of a long ago childhood that has been carefully tucked away.
Grief, 5 Stages
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief that must be gone through in order to move forward. I don’t think we ever recover, we just learn to live a new normal with a void in our lives. I have abbreviated the steps for this post, however for more information, follow this link.
*Denial – we have all been victims to denial. This is especially true when we have lost someone we love. Words such as “no, no, no, or in my case, “Mike Who” inevitably come out of our mouths as we try to convince ourselves that couldn’t have happened. We tell ourselves and others anything to create the illusion that what is happening isn’t real.
*Anger – We become angry…sometimes at the person, sometimes at the world. Furthermore, we question why that person would have been in that specific situation, why they didn’t help themselves, or why we didn’t help them. Anger is debilitating and often comes alongside guilt.
*Bargaining – We play mind games with ourselves and try to make deals with God. We think “if I can do this and that, than he will be OK” and so forth.
*Depression – heart wrenching, deep and dark feelings of emptiness or pain. Feeling as though the world will never be the same…and it won’t, however being in the present hurts, so it is easier to live in memories.
*Acceptance – you understand the loss is real and recognize the your life has changed. While you realize you will move forward, it is one small step at a time before you begin to find your new normal.
A New Normal
Many of us don’t like change. We become comfortable in our predictable lives , therefore anything that occurs to underscore that normalcy is difficult. When we lose someone we love, it seems like everything in our lives feels in chaos. The predictability of a text, a phone call or cry in the night is gone. The ability to walk into the kitchen and see our loved one has vanished. Their smell, touch and the sound of their voice is just gone.
Consequently, a new normal is what life looks like after that loss. While looking at us from from the outside it may not appear to be terribly different, however on the inside, many of us are forcing ourselves to get out of bed and face the day. Hence, others don’t see the struggle to go to the store and not shop for something special for our lost loved one, or see the sad smile as a long forgotten song begins to play.
A new normal means something different for everyone. With the holidays, keep in mind that not everyone will be celebrating this year. Respect your friend who has no desire to put out a Christmas Tree. Let them do things their way. Let them grieve. Share their memories and let them keep their loved ones alive.
Circle of Life
If only the Circle of Life was as easy as watching a Disney Move; consequently, we cry, we laugh, we go on with our day. The circle of life continues everyday; however, it seems like some days are just more difficult than others. Shoot, maybe some moments are more difficult than others. Don’t personalize your friend, for sometimes the anger is overwhelming and you are the unwilling outlet. Consequently, forgive them and just let them be as they learn how to live their new normal.
And most of all, to everyone who is learning to find their new normal, God bless. Do what you need to do for you. Hold the little things close, and the memories of your loved once closer. Furthermore, I give you permission to grieve your own way.
It comes in waves and affects every person differently.
11 years ago today, my husband and I learned that our daughter had died at 24 weeks and three days. She was still in the womb and I had to be induced for her to enter this world and wait over 24 hours for her to be born. After her birth, I remember the nurse bringing this tine, one pound little girl to me, wrapped tightly in a blanket. .
Chaney Renee was stillborn. I remember looking at her and her little nose turned up, just like mine. I cried as I held her close to my heart and I remember my father in law telling me that when you lose a baby on Earth, you have a baby to rock in Heaven. All I knew was that I hurt desperately and I was going home without my little girl. I didn’t realize until that experience that the hospital put a rose outside my door to signify that we had lost our child. This was their cue to not ask about our baby.
4 1/2 hours after giving birth,my husband and I walked out of the hospital. I had never felt so empty in my life and I remember thinking I would never be happy again. I remember wondering how I could be in the throws of grief while the world went on with their lives. Even walking through Target with my husband was so emotionally difficult, as all I could see were the baby girl clothes that we would never buy. Truthfully, I thought the crying would never stop.
I remember when my husband went back to work, I felt alone and terrified. My anxiety was incredibly high and my grief was overwhelming. I was mourning the loss of our baby, but as my husband explained, it was so much more. We were mourning the death of the dreams we had for her. Our little girl would never grow up and experience everything we, as parents, dreamed for her.
I vividly remember a few weeks later, working with my dad in our basement and painting the walls. My father hated to paint, but he wanted to keep me company, so together we painted. Out of the blue, I began singing, which is something I never thought I would do again. It was at that point, I knew I would be OK…I would never be the same, but I would be OK. God was with us through our journey and I knew our little girl was safely in His kingdom.
This experience helped me in my career as a social worker. I became more empathetic and I understood how a parent would do anything in their power to protect their children. You see, we knew from 12 weeks that Chaney had a genetic disorder. Testing showed she had Turners Syndrome in addition to some other anomalies. We knew she had a small chance for survival. We researched her condition and were given the option to terminate the pregnancy. We chose to let God guide us. Guaranteed that she would not suffer, we let her dictate her path and that allowed me to be as close to her as possible for her short life.
Weekly ultrasounds provided us with pictures of this sweet girl. She continued to be active until the week she was still. At some point within the week, she had passed away and as a mother I was unable to tell. I remember the doctor letting us know that she was gone and we were instantly put on the ward and labor was induced. I called my good friend and chaplain at the hospital I worked with to come and bless her, which he did. She was in God’s arms now and I needed to let her go.
Tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of her birth. July 22nd will always be a difficult day for me and I rarely talk about this event in our lives, although it was one of the most traumatic times we have experienced.
This little girl taught me grace and empathy. She provided me with the ability to see my boys as gifts and I know she is watching over us as we grow older. When God calls me home, I will have a baby to rock and she will be whole and healthy, waiting with open arms for another hug from her mama.
Recently she was joined by my brother. He was 53 years old and passed away unexpectedly. My husband took the call and I will never forget the look on his face when he told me the news. I was in denial as I asked “Mike who”? My brother was my hero and had been since I was a child. We may not have had much communication, but we didn’t need to. We were five and 1/2 years apart and we were like oil and water. He was a trail blazer and made things happen. I often took and hard paths and walked the line between right and wrong. He never once shunned me and he was always there to support me, even if he didn’t agree with my decisions.
This grief is different. I feel as though I have been kicked in the gut as I look back over the years. My brother was the one who cared for me while my parents worked. He was the one who taught me to ride a motorcycle. He was the one that taught me that I could do anything if I worked hard enough.
He attended my basketball and softball games. He attended my graduations from high school and college. He was there for me to vent. We had plans to meet the day after he died, and through this experience, I have learned that sometimes tomorrow never comes.
This grief is different from the loss of our baby. I have memories with my brother and I watched him grow up and become an amazing husband and father. This loss carries the memories of a lifetime with him and a sadness for what we won’t experience together. He was one of my “rocks” and I hope that I can take what he taught me and help his wife and children through their lives.
To him, I was always the little sister who never grew up, or at least I always felt like that. I watched his children when they were little and I came to love his wife as a sister. She also taught me so much about family and what it means to accept one another. Her parents extended their home and love to me and treated me as family.
This loss was so unexpected. I know that God has a plan that we are not able to understand, and while I struggle with it, I know to trust in Him. While I hurt and sometimes experience waves of uncontrollable grief, I know that we will move forward and learn to live our “new normal” as my friend eloquently explained it.
So, my friends, remember that sometimes tomorrow never comes. Live your life and step out of your comfort zones. Allow yourself to laugh and be silly, as you go through your life. Let yourself impact others and let God work His Grace through you.